The Art of the One Minute and Leadership from Both Sides
Tried and true. Ken Blanchard’s book The One Minute Manager summarizes the essence of management in two easy lessons.
The One Minute Praising: Help people fulfill their potential by catching them doing something right. Let people know you are going to tell them how they are doing in no uncertain terms. I carried seven marbles in my right pocket every day that I went to work. I would intentionally look for individuals doing something right, then tell them how much I appreciate them and their effort. I would then shift one marble to my left pocket until I caught seven people every day doing things right. So, make sure you:
- Praise people immediately.
- Tell people specifically what they did right.
- Tell people how good you feel about what they did right.
- Stop for a minute of silence: Let them feel how good you feel.
- Shake hands, high-five, or touch them in such a way to let them know you support their success with our team.
The One Minute Reprimand: Let people know beforehand that you are going to let them know how they are doing in no uncertain terms. Being non-confrontational, I learned early on that for me to lead and manage better, I needed to address any negative or poor actions very quickly. My nature was to wait or in some way justify their actions and blow it off. The trouble with that is at some point you will hit the final straw and then jump the team member much harder than what they deserved for this last action that pushed you over the edge. Be engaged and act quickly and do it in private.
- Reprimand immediately.
- Tell people specifically what they did wrong.
- Tell people how you feel about what they did wrong in no uncertain terms.
- Wait a moment of uncomfortable silence to let them feel your disappointment.
- Shake hands or touch in a way that they know you are on their side.
- Remind them how much you value them.
- Reaffirm that you like them but not their performance.
- Realize that when the reprimand is over it is over.
I want to add a counterpoint to all the leadership and management tips we have discussed and look at leadership, management, and communication from the perspective of our team. Here are the top six team member complaints I continue hearing:
- Not Enough (no guidance): The quintessential too little too late. It is very common to see doctors operate and act like all they want to do is just do the clinical dentistry. They hate communicating or managing the team. As the leader your number one job is sharing your vision while embracing change and guarding “core” tenets of your culture.
- Too Much (micromanaging): Micromanagement is the number one symptom of lack of leadership. This is the #1 symptom of the uninformed, poorly communicating, lack of trust doctor that none of us want to be like.
- Too Much is Negative (Not enough positive): On balance, I would say that you need to have three positive contacts with each team member to one negative, if that. The goal is to catch you team doing things right. Praise them as close to the positive event as possible and make sure you communicate that to each of them. They must hear and feel the positive reinforcement of this pat on the back.
- Misinformed: This is too frequently the case when those in leadership positions too quickly meter out punishment or reprimands without hearing both sides of the story. You must have your facts clear, have listened to any circumstances or excuses, and then, and only then, deal with the matter.
- Vague: The classic lack of leadership maturity and a lack of understanding of what leadership should look like. You should be modeling the results you would like to see in each of your team members. Even more importantly, you need to understand that when you speak to someone, your job is to make sure that they actually hear and comprehend what you said.
- Delayed: A common strategy of my wife. She is a “type B” personality and gets along with everyone. The caveat is that when she is upset at me, I know it wasn’t what I just did. It happened many moons before, but whatever I did just then was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. A second way of seeing delayed management or leadership is the procrastinating doctor. You justify not dealing with some challenge by telling yourself that you need to research this more, it wasn’t that bad, or I will do it tomorrow and tomorrow never comes. The goal would be to address each area of these complaints from employees as soon as possible. Today is the day that you take on doing things the right way.
The result of not leading and managing is what I call “Workplace Chaos”. Here are the top five causes that you need to take note of and avoid at all costs.
- Failure to give credit: Don’t be that doctor that is constantly humming the tune, “It’s All About Me”. Share the credit when things go well. Reward the team or individual that is responsible. Give credit where credit is due.
- Failure to correct grievances: Non-assertive doctors are rife with this challenge. The buck stops with the leader. You must be quick to address and correct grievances as soon as you are aware of them.
- Failure to encourage: It’s the marbles again. Model what you want and be a great team player that is encouraging. It is “our” practice, not just yours. If you want a “Staff Owned” culture in your practice, be intentional on this one. It is work. It is difficult, but it is important to your success.
- Criticizing in front of others: A little repeat from Ken Blanchard. On the one-minute reprimand you do it in private and make sure that when you are finished you follow the suggestions at the top of the page. Even when criticizing others, they should take away that they are important to the team and that you still respect and value them. If you can’t do this when you critique someone, then fire them.
- Failure to ask employees their opinion: Once again, your team needs to see this as “our practice” and not just yours. It is a commitment to understanding and sharing in the decisions when you take the time to ask and then act on each team members opinion. In fact, make sure that you draw out comments from staff that are not volunteering their opinions.
The under managed office or under led office generally is doing one of five things wrong. We have alluded to these previously but it bares repeating and looking at one last time in the context of staffing our teams in the chase for excellence.
- Expectations are unclear: Well run offices have a very clear vision and protocols to ensure that they consistently remain at the top of their game. Far too often, we find that expectations are vague or unclear which nearly always occurs when leadership is lacking. The first job of a leader is to cast a vision and define what is core in your culture. You can’t expect your team to perform well if they don’t even know what you expect.
- Roles are undefined: Who you hire as well as how you onboard them and train them is key in any business. Without proper training and equally complete job descriptions as well as consequences for not following those job descriptions, life in you dental office will be chaos and yield unexpected, undesireable results. Train your team, give them authority to do their job, and get out of the way. One of the pillars of the Super General Dental Practice is “staff ownership”. Ownership comes with complete buy-in and total engagement in your office. Nothing short of this will work.
- Feedback is sparse: I would even bet that most offices have no feedback. I don’t think anyone has ever taken a job with the intent to just do terrible at it. Even if you hired the right person, trained them, and gave them job descriptions, you must also be engaged in consistently giving them feedback and direction. While this can be shared with other team members, the buck stops with you and you need to be engaged in giving the feedback as well as listening to their challenges. You are building rapport and culture as you take the time to help each and every member of your team be the best they can be.
- Morale goes downhill fast: The pulse of the practice is its morale. I’ve said this before but you are looking for “commitment” and not just compliance. Complaince is merely the barest of getting the job done. Commitment is the attitude of the culture of ownership. Morale is the fuel you need every day to maintain this high level of results.
Let me sum up, in a big picture way, how to consistently win at management and leadership. I have limited this to eight common sense ways of excelling at leadership.
- Get really good at coaching people. In the most basic of definitions, a coach trains, teaches, encourages, understands when you fall short, picks you up, and improves your game. The best coaches become that person that decades later you remember making a difference in your life. Be that person.
- Be knowledgeable about the team. To know you team, you must listen to them. Adopt the attitude that you are not just the doctor and owner of the practice, but a team member of equal standing with each of your team members. After all, we want to partner with each of them in a way that ensures an attitude of ownership on their part.
- Spend time with every team member in coaching sessions. You must be hands on during training and onboarding as well as interviewing each team member. While most of us delegate the actual training, you need to be actively overseeing the results and opening a line of communication with this new team member.
- Take notes every step of the way. In leadership you will make mistakes. One way to not repeat them is to take notes. Part of this is an ongoing updating of your policy manual and job descriptions. Another is to actually write down your thoughts, goals, and your vision of the practice. This is not a one-time thing, but a consistent, ongoing commitment to memorialize your thoughts and wishes on paper. I use paper more than a computer and always have a pen and paper in my pocket, beside my bed, and near my favorite chair. I try to never miss an opportunity to record my “aha” moments.
- Deal with performance problems now. If not now, when? If not you, who? As a recidivistic non-assertive person, I learned early on that if I did not deal with performance challenges immediately, I would lose my nerve to ever deal with them unless I got mad (bad idea). Dealing with issues early and consistently kept them below the threshold of “overwhelming” for me. The reward was less stress and a tighter ship when it came to leadership. Try it, you will like it. It is only nerve racking the first time you do it. Remember the one-minute reprimand.
- Free up hopelessly low performers. Here is your first problem to deal with quickly. We cannot keep mediocre team members. We can no longer tolerate “divas” and “pot stirrers”. We must look at this as building the ideal team, not just ignoring or tolerating one employee at the cost of the entire team. I have never spoken with a doctor that when asked: “Is there any member of your team that if they did not show up next week, you wouldn’t be that upset?” that could not name at least one person in their office that they felt that way about. Keeping these people is like getting a diagnosis of cancer and then just ignoring it. At some point, not following this strategy can be terminal for your culture.
- The Servant Leadership style. There are dozens of leadership styles, but few are as well balanced as the person that leads from the front, protects the flock, guards the core things, dreams big, and models what they want from those in their flock. Tip a mirror up and take a look: Are you that servant leader?
- Model what you expect. It all comes back full circle. Your practice started with you and, as the leader, it ends with you and your engagement and consistency. As you read this, I hope that the lack of being a servant leader, being engaged, and modeling what you expect doesn’t define you as the one person that the team wouldn’t be upset if you did not show up next week. Sadly, that can be the case. You are the number one reason your practice does well, and the number one reason is struggles. I hope this 180 Degree Dental Journey helps you see the things you need to see in order to improve.
One final topic and we will call it a day: Excuses. In life, I have found that excuses are over-rated. They are the crutch that weak leaders use to justify their short coming and lackluster results. I am hoping we can agree that when you call or write that you will not parrot the top six excuses I continue to hear. They are not true, and they do not make up for the challenges you experience. Lose your excuses and find your results.
- “I didn’t have time.” Commitment means making the time. Accountability is necessary regardless of what happens. Everyone has a full day. Winners get things done anyway. Make the time for the important things in life.
- “I wasn’t sure what you wanted me to do.” Never start or even consider a task without knowing what is asked of you. This overly used line in no way excuses you from delivering the results. If you are uncertain, get clarity.
- “It’s not my job.” In a culture of ownership, it is your job. It is your job to do, do train, to delegate, but it is your job to knock it down and get it done. I am fine if an employee, after hearing the task and understanding what I want, knows the timeline, and tells me that they don’t feel like they can get it done. I can look elsewhere after finding out why they cannot get it done. This happens.
- “I don’t believe in doing that. If I was the patient here, I wouldn’t like it.” This is fine to hear up front when you discuss your vision, core values, their job description, and training. I want to know this. The time that it would not be appropriate would be from a tenured employee. This is the key in Patrick Lencioni’s book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (which you should have already read). Great leaders would never have this happen. If you do, you have failed to communicate exactly what your vision is and what their job requires.
- “I forgot.” Try this one with the IRS. This might fly once, but people that forget, can forget working in our offices. If it was important enough to be in their job description or a task that they were asked to complete, only finishing the job on time would be an adequate solution.
- “We didn’t do it that way in Dr. ___ office.” Very common in my office years ago. Now it would never be a response that would fly. Everything we do is different from an average office. Even the results are a far cry from the run of the mill dental practice. I don’t care how they used to do it. They were training to do it differently and at the time of training if they had a question, we would answer clearly as well as explain why what we asked them to do is different.
We covered a whole lot here. Maybe too much. Please reread this and get familiar with each and every one of these bullet points. We will revisit some and expand on their worth in more detail, but you must embrace leadership and management in a whole different light. I want you to own your results and improve everything. This is how you Summit on the road to 180 Degree Dental Journey.
Michael Abernathy, DDS